JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 2,100 people have been identified as priority contacts in the investigation into suspected cases of tuberculosis among Jacksonville's homeless population and those affected by other social TB risk factors, according to the the Duval County Health Department.
The number represents those possibly infected with TB over the last eight years.
The DCHD said it will continue to work within Florida Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with the Jacksonville Tuberculosis Coalition to ensure that priority contacts are screened.
Since January, DCHD has been performing outreach investigations at area facilities that provide services to potential infected homeless people. Duval County has reported 42 cases of active TB, with 15 cases of the same type.
In 2011, 753 TB cases were reported in Florida. To date, this represents a 10 percent decrease in cases since 2010, according to DCHD.
There has been a steady decline in the number of TB cases in the state since 1994 (1,764 cases). Fourteen counties account for 80 percent of Florida's TB morbidity, Duval being one of them.
Although the total number of TB cases in Duval County declined from 89 cases in 2009 to 72 cases in 2010 and 71 cases in 2011, the number of cases belonging to one specific genotype cluster increased, with 10 cases identified in 2010 and 30 cases in 2011.
TB patients in Florida are receiving appropriate care to assure their cure, health officials said. DOH said it will stay vigilant in protecting Floridians and visitors and while remaining transparent throughout the process.
DCHD said it has deployed five teams of health professionals focused on screening the homeless population of Jacksonville. Their goals are to find active cases, stop the transmission of TB, and identify latent tuberculosis infection to eliminate the source of future infection.
TB is a disease that is spread from person to person through the air. It usually affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is much more difficult to catch than the common cold.
To catch TB, a person typically has to spend significant time with someone who has pulmonary TB, health officials said. People with TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day, including family members, friends and coworkers.
A positive test usually means that the person has been infected with the TB germ. It does not necessarily mean that the person has active TB disease.
Other tests, such as an X-ray or sputum sample, are needed to determine if the person has active TB disease. TB can be easily cured through proper medical treatment.